The worldwide PC market experienced a sharp decline in the third quarter of 2012 with shipments totaling 87.5 million units during the period, a drop of 8.3 percent compared with the third quarter of 2011, according to latest data from Gartner.

The IT research firm said it was a continuing slowdown in consumer PC shipments that played a big role in the overall PC market decline. In addition, the third quarter was a transitional quarter before Microsoft’s Widows 8 operating system release. Therefore, shipments were less vigorous as vendors and their channel partners liquidated inventory.

"Retailers were conservative in placing orders as they responded to weak back-to-school sales. By the end of September, retailers were focused on clearing out inventory in advance of the Windows 8 launch later this month," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "On the professional side, there was minimum impact from Windows 8 in the quarter because the professional market will not adopt Windows 8 PCs immediately after the release."

Lenovo took the top position in worldwide PC shipments for the first time in the company's history, as its share increased to 15.7 percent, while HP's global PC share was at 15.5 percent. Take a look at the table below:

[Source: Gartner]

When it comes to the U.S., PC shipments totaled 15.3 million units in the third quarter of 2012, a 13.8 percent decline compared with the same period last year. Although the third quarter has historically been driven by back-to-school sales, U.S. PC shipments did not increase from the second quarter of 2012.

“Channels were conservative in placing orders. Professional PC shipments in the U.S. began slowing in the second quarter of this year, and they continued the trend in the third quarter. The results indicate that the replacement peak may have passed in the professional sector,” Kitagawa added.

Take a look at the table below, showing preliminary U.S. OC vendor shipment estimates for 3Q2012.

[Source: Gartner]

Data from International Data Corporation (IDC) also told a similar story with minimal differences in terms of numbers. According to IDC, the global PC market contracted sharply in the third quarter of 2012, with shipments declining 8.6 percent from the third quarter of 2011.

IDC had expected a quiet quarter as channels focused on clearing out Windows 7 inventory to make space for Windows 8. Continued pressure from other products such as tablets and smartphones, as well as uncertainty over the impact of Windows 8 and the economic outlook, contributed to depressed shipments.

"We expected a weak PC market in the lead up to Windows 8 release in the fourth quarter. While the industry has been focused on shaving excess inventory and preparing to launch a new generation of products, consumers have been looking at alternative devices like tablets,” said David Daoud, research director, Personal Computing at IDC. "Nevertheless, as vendors line up innovative new products and designs, consumers are likely to respond positively during the tail-end of 4Q12, and that means a potential return to positive growth at the end of this year."

Unlike Gartner, IDC still put HP at the top among all major vendors with a market share of 15.9 percent. However, it did state that Lenovo nearly caught HP for the worldwide market leadership position as its shares increased to 15.7 percent during the third quarter of 2012.

According to IDC, HP saw shipments contract more than 16 percent from a year ago and narrowly held on to the top vendor spot. On the other hand, Lenovo, despite slowing growth in Asia, continued to register the highest yearly growth among all top vendors.

Take a look at IDC’s list of top five vendors in the worldwide PC shipments for the third quarter of 2012.

[Source: IDC]